1. William Shakespeare
Shakespeare, the king of ill-fated romance! His plays provide all the ingredients not only for rom-coms like “She’s the Man” (The Twelfth Night) and “10 Things I Hate About You” (The Taming of the Shrew) but also for weepy tragedies like “O” (Othello) and “Romeo + Juliet.” How fitting that high school movies take their cues from Shakespearean melodrama!
2. Nathaniel Hawthorne
The red “A” in the title might be a giveaway to Hawthorne’s famous The Scarlet Letter. Turns out Hester Prynne’s public humiliation at the hands of New England Puritans is not much different than the rumors and slut-shaming that abound in high school hallways.
3. Jane Austen
Wonder what Jane Austen would think of Clueless’ take on “Emma,” whose haughty Cher is just as proud, egotistical, and generally unlikable as Austen’s heroine? Or Bridget Jones as Pride and Prejudice’s beloved Elizabeth Bennet, fighting off the affections of vying suitors? Hats off to Colin Firth who not only plays Mr. Darcy in a 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries, but also expertly transforms into the modern film’s equivalent.
4. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons, a tale of wealth, cruelty, and deceit, unsurprisingly configures perfectly into the world of elite New York teens. Equally cynical in tone, in Roger Kumble’s 1999 adaptation, cunning puts innocence to shame.
5. 5. George Bernard Shaw
Shaw’s Pygmalion, the inspiration for the cinema classic “My Fair Lady,” also pioneered the movie makeover, whereupon women are made to be more ‘socially acceptable’—from prostitute to society woman or high school nerd to token popular girl. Wonder if Shaw also had a hand in “The Ugly Duckling”?
6. Fyodor Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and its modern adaptation both exist in the moral gray area of justified murder. The result? Lots of brooding. Perfect for a high school flick set in suburbia!
7. Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont
Little-known Beaumont, author of the storied fable “Beauty and the Beast,” would definitely approve of Beastly’s “Love is never ugly” tagline, which affirms both stories’ ‘beauty is only skin deep’ mantra. That said, Alex Pettyfer may not be the most fitting choice for a ‘homely’ protagonist.
8. Edmond Rostand
“The Ugly Truth” and “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” both hail from Rostand’s classic play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a play with an unconventional Prince Charming with a protruding snout. While “The Ugly Truth’s” Butler and “The Truth About Cats and Dogs’” Garofalo share no such physical deformity, they are still the unlikely lovers in these modern rom-coms.
9. Madame de Lafayette
Fitting that both the original text, Lafayette’s The Princesse de Cleves, and the film are French; they have all the requisite trappings of French literature and cinema—paramours, unrequited love, and, of course, beautiful clothes.
10. Geoffrey Chaucer
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales gets a breath of fresh air in “A Knight’s Tale,” where a peasant masquerades as a knight. Chaucer would be happy to know that not only was his book the inspiration for the film, but he also makes a cameo.